34 – Laser Cutting & Laser Engraving Corian: Can I or should I? (24:53)

The Lightblade Learning Lab with Russ Sadler

The Lightblade Learning Lab is a series of videos that Russ did for Thinklaser Limited based on using the Lightblade 4060 Laser Cutting and Engraving Machine. Thinklasers Lightblade 4060 has a 400 x 600mm bed size and was supplied with a 60W EFR laser tube. In this session, Russ carries out some tests to help you decide if you can, or should try laser cutting or laser engraving Corian.

Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian
Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian


  • Warning about potential damage to machine.
  • Description of how acrylic is cut by laser.
  • Description of Corian and its chemical components.
  • Video of Corian engraving – dust produced by process.
  • Videos of laser cutting Corian and making inserts.
  • Reviewing results of cuts and engravings.
  • Explanation of what is happening when lasering Corian.
  • Remote PC problems with loss of datum.
  • 3D engraving.
  • A bitmap graphic example suitable for 3D engraving.
  • Varying the power for 3D engraving using shades of grey on the image.
  • Layer parameters.
  • Max and Min power.
  • Calculating the interval.
  • Testing the 3D engraving using magnets to hold the work in place.
  • Carrying out the work in several passes.

My thanks go out to Tom at Thinklaser for giving permission to embed these videos on this site. If you are looking for a new laser machine from a quality supplier, then I would suggest you check out their website: www.thinklaser.com.

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Transcript for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian

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0:15Well welcome to another Lightblade Learning Lab

0:19I hope today it’s going to be quite an interesting day because on the one hand

0:23I’m going to show you something quite interesting on this machine but on the

0:28other hand what I’m gonna tell you is please don’t do it! Now that might sound

0:34dangerous but it’s not to me but maybe just a little bit dangerous to the

0:39Machine and all, all will become evident as we get further into this

0:43little project as I told you before I’m happy to do things on this machine to

0:49demonstrate to you things that you can’t do yourself not entirely true in this

0:55instance you can do it yourself but the warning is that over the long term it

1:02might damage your machine not the tube but the physics of the machine itself so

1:10let’s just push on and you’ll understand my love of this material acrylic it’s

1:16an amazing material now as I’ve demonstrated to you many times before it

1:21is unique amongst materials in that it does not burn what it does it sublimates

1:28it turns directly from a solid to a gas when it heats up we’ve got an invisible

1:34beam of light which is just invisible energy and what happens is when the

1:41energy hits the surface of this material that light energy turns to heat and that

1:47heat immediately causes this stuff to evaporate now today I want to introduce

1:53you to a variant of acrylic and I was recently visiting a local show

2:04room of mine here in Colchester a place called Colchester Worktops

Transcript for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian (Cont…)

2:09now that may well give you a little bit of a clue as to what we’re going to talk

2:13about I went there to visit to get to see if I could get some little bits of

2:19make off cuts of granite that I could use for demonstrating how we can engrave

2:25on granite but that’s not what we’re going to do today while I was there they

2:34had lots of offcuts and samples of this wonderful material now you may well be

2:40familiar with this material already it’s a material called Corian and it’s used

2:47for worktops now it is a mixture of about 30 percent acrylic which is

2:55holding the whole thing together but then it’s been filled with various

2:59colours and types of aluminium oxide well not aluminium oxide it’s aluminium

3:06hydroxide there’s a big difference because aluminium hydroxide is used

3:12normally as a flame retardant, it’s got all sorts of properties that make it basically

3:15chemically inert to be suitable for use as work surfaces now the fact that it

3:25contains 30% acrylic interested me because that raised the

3:32potential for being able to cut it on this machine and maybe engrave it on

3:38this machine the only problem is the aluminum hydroxide that’s in here is a

3:45solid which is not very good at transmitting heat or absorbing infrared

3:52light so I was a little bit hesitant about trying to use it but it had the

4:00possibility of being able to do something with it so what I did was some

Transcript for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian (Cont…)

4:04quick test work to find out if we could cut it and remarkably I’m just about to

4:12show you some footage which shows you some results that I produced earlier on

5:03we have two problems number one

5:08the acrylic melts away nicely surprisingly enough doesn’t burn

5:16what it does

5:23it leaves all this dust behind produces a nice clean edge that’s not burnt

5:41it’s not particularly hot

5:44but look look at all this dust very fine dust and that’s going to be a killer

5:59for these slides which are covered in grease

Transcript for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian (Cont…)

6:04so that’s not going to do the bearings any good at all

6:09so everything is getting covered in a fine dust

6:17we have to run incredibly slowly to cut

7:53so here’s the piece that came out of there

7:57and here’s an acrylic insert cut off the same file

Transcript for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian (Cont…)

8:06for there okay well I did warn for you that that might

8:11be quite interesting there’s a couple of other things I’d like you to just take a

8:14note of number one you saw how bright the cut was tremendous heat in that cut

8:24there was virtually no evaporation taking place that you could see of the

8:30acrylic when you look on the edge of this material it has got the merest

8:34amount of discoloration on it and as you can see here there is a small amount of

8:40discoloration in the bottom of these engraved cuts but it’s remarkably burn

8:47and debris free considering I was blowing on it with a lot of air assist

8:55and under normal circumstances air assist would make it very sticky and

9:00mucky on the surface here so this is a very clean cutting material part of that

9:07property comes from the aluminium hydroxide now the other thing I wanted

9:12you to note was that when I was cutting the temperature on the back here despite

9:17all this white heat that was on there continuously this temperature on the

9:22back was virtually only probably 40 degrees C at the most now why is that no

9:31burns cool cut

9:36well it’s all to do with this aluminium hydroxide as I pointed out to you at the

9:40beginning it’s used as a flame-retardant material and basically what it is the

9:46hydroxide part of it basically means that aluminium has bonded with water

9:50when you heat it up the water actually separates out and that is that water

9:57which is producing the cooling effect so it keeps the cut cool by basically

Transcript for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian (Cont…)

10:04converting the water into a coolant and leaving behind all that horrible dust

10:11which is aluminium in this form you would normally recognize it as sandpaper

10:18or Emery paper it’s a very hard material and that’s why we don’t want that

10:27material on our slide ways okay so that’s some of the interesting

10:31properties of this material the other thing I’d like to point out to you is

10:35the weird errors and shapes that have occurred on these two G’s here now this

10:43one was done with a live download from the PC and I’ve noticed this before that

10:52once we start getting slightly complicated files and this isn’t a very

10:55complicated file but once we get in quite large files what tends to happen

11:00is it seems as though the processor can’t handle input information output

11:06information at the same time and it loses its datum position as you can see

11:11it’s drifting all over the place and even when I downloaded the file and held

11:19it on the computer it was still doing this the only time I had success with

11:27cutting and with engraving was when I loaded the file onto a memory stick and

11:33transferred the file into the machine via a memory stick now this problem is

11:38not unique to this machine I’ve seen on my China blue machine as well

11:43well where do we go from here we’ve got a machine that’s full of abrasive dust

11:50and a fantastic material one of the things I would like to try while we’re

12:02working with this material is something that we haven’t yet tackled and that is

Transcript for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian (Cont…)

12:083d engraving that’s exactly what it sounds like we’re not going to cut to

12:15just a single depth as we did when we were doing this engraving we’re going to

12:20have variable depth across each one of our scans so I think first of all we’ll

12:27go away and take a look at the file that I’m going to be using for dealing with

12:32this 3d engraving and then we’ll come back here and we’ll try and cut it by

12:38which time hopefully I’ll have top it up my fill tank again now this is an

12:45especially prepared bitmap it’s not just an ordinary photograph it’s not

12:49something you can produce yourself if we look at it carefully it’s got a very

12:53strange sort of waxy look to it if we look at the top here we’ll see that

12:58there’s white and these little berries look they look white and part of the

13:02Eagle here is white well in the background we’ve got black zero is black

13:10and white is 255 that’s 256 colors in total 254 of them are shades of black

13:20and white mix ie gray now the machine is actually capable of subdividing its

13:29power output into 256 levels as well so that as it scans across here while it’s

13:38doing a scan it can decide that this is full power this is less power and when

13:44we get to white it’s probably almost no power and then it goes back to dark

13:49black which is full power again so as the beam moves across one sweep it’s

13:56continuously changing power so eventually wish you’ll finish

13:59up carving this shape because it’s not something that happens instantly after

Transcript for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian (Cont…)

14:04just one pass you have to do multiple passes to get the relief into this

14:09picture let’s look up here at the bitmap handle and we can see here that the

14:16resolution of this picture is 200 pixels per inch when we look at the size of the

14:23picture up here it’s 61 millimeters wide about two and a half inches and then two and a

14:31half inches that means that at 200 pixels per inch there’s about 500 pixels

14:37across that picture and every one of those pixels is mapped when we create a

14:44file and the computer is deciding what the power level should be at every step

14:49across so it’s quite a phenomenal piece of software engineering to be honest so

14:55we don’t have to do anything with this bitmap handle at the moment we could if

14:59we wanted change the we do it gently we can change the shade on the picture we

15:08can play with that a little bit now the shades of gray on here are mapped onto

15:12here off of a 3d object so that they’re basically like the contour lines on a

15:18survey map equal shades of gray are all at the same level the depth in the

15:25picture and that’s how we get the 3d ness into it you do not get 3d if you

15:31just take an ordinary photograph and try and do 3d with it so how do we get the

15:383d effect so now we’ll bring up the layer

15:42parameters and this is where we’ve got to look very carefully at what we’re

15:45doing it is output yes speed per minute well if you go too fast the computer

15:53just can’t keep up with the speed that we’re going and you tend to lose

15:59resolution in your picture so I found that something like about 100

Transcript for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian (Cont…)

16:04millimeters a second is a good speed to work with is it blowing well certainly

16:10in this instance yes depending on the material

16:14we may make a different decision processing mode is scanned yes and the

16:20this is where we’re going to use something that we haven’t talked about

16:24before which is max min power now the lowest power that the tube will fire at

16:33is around about 8% so I’m going to set that to I think 9% and that well choose

16:47a number but the output curve is nonlinear and ideally what we’d like to

16:52do is make sure that we keep a linear relationship between all the colors in

16:56here so mmm always a compromise decision here I

17:00think I’ll probably start off at something like about 50% power and what

17:07that means is that white will represent 9% and black will represent 50% power

17:14and between those two numbers we’ve got two hundred and fifty four steps of

17:19power now the really important thing that you must do is to put that tick in

17:26there, output direct otherwise these two numbers will have no effect at all X

17:32swing yes so we’ve chosen a resolution of 200 dots per inch so what I’m going

17:39to do is to do a very quick calculation to work out what the interval is and

17:44that calculation is basically 25.4 which is one inch in millimeters and we’re

17:52going to divide that by 200 which is the resolution and the answer to that is

17:580.127 and that’s what we’re going to put in this here 0.127 so we’ve got

Transcript for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian (Cont…)

18:07200 pixels across and 200 steps down per inch bear in mind I mentioned earlier

18:14that we had problems with transferring the file to the machine what I’m going

18:19to do now is to save the file as a u file so then we’ll go out to them

18:24and load it into the machine now bear in mind I was telling you how this didn’t

18:29want to load properly well I’m doing the same with this particular file I’m

18:33making sure that I load it via a memory stick and you can see how big the file

18:39is because it’s taking absolutely ages to load well I think it’s probably going

18:44to be about three or four minutes by the time it’s loaded I’m placing two of my

18:49very strong Neodymium magnets on each corner so I’ve got eight magnets on

18:56here pushed hard up against the corners because I’m anticipating that because of

19:03the dust that’s going to be produced and the fact that I’m going to have to do

19:07multiple cuts I’m going to have to clean this in between the cuts and I do not

19:13want this to move okay now I’ve got the machine lid closed but I have got an air

19:18gap underneath to let all the to let plenty of air flow through there but of

19:23course this is producing a dust which probably doesn’t get carried very far in

19:30the air stream it gets blown away by the air assist and that’s because it’s quite

19:37a heavy dust if you listen you can actually hear the

19:42beam changing its power

19:52now I’m afraid this is not exactly a rapid process we’re probably going to

19:57have to go over this maybe four five times

Transcript for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian (Cont…)

20:03because this is actually still quite a hard material the softer the material

20:07the faster it cuts well this is why I wanted to put the magnets on there

20:12because we’re going to have to clean all the dust off this job carefully

20:18before we go for the next cut because this dust is not very absorbent and it

20:25will prevent the next layer from cutting I’ve also increased the power this time

20:30so we get a bigger difference between our deep and our shallow cuts you can

20:35probably just see here where it hasn’t actually cut and that’s because that’s

20:40where it was white the darker parts are cutting adjust a little bit deeper what

20:45we’ll have them cutting proportionately a lot deeper this time now I’ve moved

20:49the head out of the way but of course as soon as I press the start button it will

20:54go back to the original origin point that it was set to and it will work from

20:59there so the fact that I’ve moved the head out of the way has not caused me a

21:02problem so here we go start

21:08and there you can see we’ve got a much more violent cut

21:16and I would say we’re probably cutting on black maybe half to three-quarters of

21:23a mil deep

21:27now I have to say that I would not do this on my other China blue machine

21:32because I don’t have a proper air filtration system on there on this

21:36machine we’ve got the Purex filter which has got what four levels of filter

21:43I’ve got a crude filter inside the machine here and then there’s a

21:46pre-filter a HEPA filter and an active carbon filter built into the Purex unit

21:51and then it recirculates the air I can hardly smell anything but if I lift this

21:56lid there is a bit of a strange smell now I don’t know exactly although I’ve

22:00done some research I don’t know exactly what the gaseous products are when we

Transcript for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian (Cont…)

22:06are breaking down this aluminium hydroxide silica dust of any sort can

22:13cause respiratory problems so that’s another reason why I’m keeping this lid

22:18closed okay well I’ll move the head out of the

22:21way again

22:26and we can already see that we’re beginning to get some nice shape into it

22:30I could use an airline but I don’t want to blow this abrasive dust everywhere I

22:36can even put the power a little bit more to 70% and if I want a deeper cut still

22:42I can’t increase the power anymore but what I can do is decrease the speed well

22:48this is going into our fourth cut now and I think you can see that we’re

22:53starting to get some pretty good relief

23:00Hey look at this we’re really getting some good definition

23:05into it now look reckon we might need one or maybe two more passes and then we

23:10should be there what we might do is one more pass like that well here we are

23:14after five cuts now and hey look at this

23:22this is superb this material is a wonderful material for 3D engraving

23:30but I don’t think we can handle the dust problem so this may be my one and only

23:38attempt at 3d engraving with Corian on any machine I think we should probably

23:46put a fine cut on there now and we’ll call that it so let’s change the cut to

23:53we’ll leave it at 8% and we will change the maximum down to maybe 30%

24:03well just while this is making its final cut

Transcript for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian (Cont…)

24:07I’ve got some more rocket fuel and I’ve got a solid fuel booster as well

24:13there we go we will go and wash it under a tap and see whether we can

24:20maybe get a little bit more colour back into it because it’s probably covered in

24:23dust at the moment

24:42well thank you very much for your attention and we shall see you in the

24:46next session where we might talk a little bit more about Max and min

24:51cheerio for now

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